Israel’s Defense Minister expressed gratitude to the U.S. for blocking a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire for the third time in a row.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the western part of Gaza, according to the Jerusalem Post, while local reports suggested that an office for Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs was targeted, as well as agricultural lands.

A recent Israeli raid that struck a building of the local health ministry has also reportedly affected the enclave’s main laboratory, bringing Covid-19 testing and vaccinations to a virtual halt.

While U.S. President Joe Biden backed a proposed ceasefire in a call with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, he nevertheless reiterated Washington’s steadfast support for Tel Aviv.

Although Biden’s Secretary of State Tony Blinken claimed that the US administration is “working behind the scenesto secure a truce, the Netanyahu government has shown no intention of stopping the bombing bonanza, expressing gratitude to Washington for torpedoing yet another attempt by the UN Security Council to adopt a statement calling for the cessation of hostilities on Monday.

The statement, drafted jointly by China, Tunisia and Norway, was the UN body’s third attempt to advance such a document in a week – with the previous efforts also blocked by Washington. The draft, as cited by AFP, stressed the need to diffuse tensions and urged “respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, especially children.”

The draft also referred to a potential expulsion of Palestinian families from the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as “serious concern” that might fuel tensions and cited the right of Muslim worshipers to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It is unclear why the Biden administration refused to endorse the statement, which also called for a ‘two-state solution’ for the long-running dispute.

The U.S. refusal to back the UNSC statement drew praise from Tel Aviv, with Israeli Defense Ministry Benny Gantz extending his “sincere thanks to the U.S. administration” for “rightly preventing the unjust UN Security Council statement criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza.”

“This criticism of Israel is hypocritical and detrimental to the global fight against terror,” Gantz added, arguing that Israel’s goal is “solely to dismantle terror infrastructure and protect our people.”

China urges U.S. to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy

An AP report said:

China on Monday renewed calls for the U.S. to play a constructive role in ending the conflict in Gaza and stop blocking efforts at the UN to demand an end to the bloodshed.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China, as rotating head of the Security Council, has urged a cease-fire and the provision of humanitarian assistance, among other proposals, but that obstruction by “one country” has prevented the council from speaking with one voice.

“We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position to support the council and play its due role in cooling down the situation and rebuilding trust for a political solution,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

At an emergency high-level meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the U.S. to join the 14 other council members and support a statement urging a halt to the violence and reaffirming support for a two-state solution to the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wang, who chaired the virtual meeting, said the “dangerous and urgent” situation calls for an immediate cease-fire.

“The international community must take action right now and make further efforts to avert a deterioration of the situation, prevent the region from backsliding to turbulence, and protect peoples’ lives,” he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao said Monday that China “strongly condemns” violence against civilians and calls for an end to air strikes, ground attacks, rocket fire and “other actions that aggravate the situation.”.

Israel should “exercise restraint, effectively comply with the relevant United Nations resolutions, stop demolishing Palestinian people’s houses, stop expelling Palestinian people and stop expanding its settlement program, stop threats of violence and provocations against Muslims, and maintain and respect the historical status quo of Jerusalem as a religious holy site,” Zhao said.

Calls have grown for the Biden administration to take a more active stance on the Israeli-Palestinian violence. Thus far, the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, has blocked efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for a cessation of hostilities.

China has long portrayed itself as a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, while building closer political, economic and military links with Israel.

Wang told the council that “China will scale-up efforts to promote peace talks” and he reaffirmed Beijing’s invitation “to Palestinian and Israeli peace advocates to continue their dialogue in China.”

He welcomed “representatives of the two sides to come to China for direct negotiations.”

Biden administration approved $735 million arms sale to Israel

A Reuters report said:

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration approved the potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, and congressional sources said on Monday that U.S. lawmakers were not expected to object to the deal despite violence between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Three congressional aides said Congress was officially notified of the intended commercial sale on May 5, as part of the regular review process before major foreign weapons sales agreements can go ahead.

The sale was first reported by the Washington Post.

Congress was informed of the planned sale in April, as part of the normal informal review process before of the formal notification on May 5. Under U.S. law, the formal notification opens up a 15-day window for Congress to object to the sale, which is not expected despite the ongoing violence.

The sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, made by Boeing Co, was considered routine at the time, before the start last week of the fiercest hostilities in the region in years.

There were no objections at the time by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the congressional foreign affairs committees that review such sales, aides said.

Asked for comment, a State Department spokesperson noted that the department is restricted under federal law and regulations from publicly commenting on or confirming details of licensing activity related to direct commercial sales like the JDAMs agreement.

Strong support for Israel is a core value for both Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress, despite calls from a few of the most progressive Democrats to take a tougher stance against the government of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu.

U.S. law allows Congress to object to weapons sales, but it is unlikely to do so in this case. Because Israel is among a handful of countries whose military deals are approved under an expedited process, the typical window for objecting will close before lawmakers can pass a resolution of disapproval, even if they were inclined to.

Other media reports said:

Israel has purchased JDAMS before, explaining their choice by saying that precision-guided Gaza airstrikes help them to avoid deaths among civilians.

Some House Democrats want to know the details of the proposed arms sale, as they believe that its timing may be used as leverage, WaPo says.

Washington insists that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas.

Defense Stocks to Gain

A report by Zacks said:

No doubt, the gainers from such conflicts are weapons manufacturers.

In an attempt to bolster Israel’s security, the United States signed a landmark agreement with the former in 2016, per which it pledged to offer military aid worth $38 billion to Israel over a period of 10 years. Per this aid, Israel can utilize only 26.3% of the foreign military fund (FMF) it receives from the U.S. on homegrown defense products. Israel has to spend as much as $1.2 billion per year on the advanced military equipment that only the U.S. can provide. Clearly, this bolsters the profits earned by the U.S. defense majors from international markets.

Stocks to Gain

The following U.S. defense stocks, with strong presence in Israel, have solid growth opportunities given the dispute between Israel and Palestine.

Lockheed Martin LMT offers its C-130 and F-16 aircraft to Israel that has been used by the Israel Air Force since the 1970s and 1980s. Israel is the owner of the largest fleet of F-16 fighters outside the U.S. Moreover, Lockheed’s industrial collaboration with Israeli companies, at a volume of $1.45 billion, contributed to approximately 40 Israeli companies, most of which are in the defense industries, along with high-tech companies, venture capital funds and research and development institutions.

The Boeing Company BA has worked in coordination with the Production and Procurement Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, as well with the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, to train and develop 60 small and medium-sized (SME) on the path to becoming Boeing suppliers. Since 2018, Boeing has directed at least 35% of the contract value from Israeli government defense procurements to Israel-based companies and suppliers. For instance, Israel Aerospace Industries’ major structures work for Boeing’s F-15 program; avionics and spare parts for the V-22 Osprey, the T-38 Talon and T-45 Goshawk.

Raytheon Technologies’ RTX Missiles & Defense along with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems manufacturers Iron Dome Weapon System. Notably, 10 Iron Dome batteries protect the citizens and infrastructure of Israel. Raytheon and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems also co-manufacture David’s Sling System, which forms a crucial element of Israel’s multi-tier layered missile defense architecture to provide mid-tier regional missile defense. In addition to partnering on the system’s Stunner interceptor, Raytheon Technologies produces the system’s missile firing units.

Israel’s Gaza attack and Israeli lobbyists

A media report said:

U.S. negotiations to return to the Iran nuclear deal may wind up exacerbating the violence between Israel and Gaza, Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies – a Washington-based think tank engaged in lobbying for the Israeli government, has suggested.

“If the administration goes back into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action…and we’re hearing from all reports out of Washington that that will be the case, what will happen is that the US will be providing tens or perhaps even more than $100 billion in cash or sanctions relief to the regime in Tehran, and then in effect it will be funding Hamas indirectly, because Iran is Hamas’s top sponsor,” Schanzer said, speaking to MSNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday.

The lobbyist went on to accuse Iran of providing the Gaza militant group with rockets, “rocket training,” parts, and funding.

“So with the United States being a primary supporter of Israel and then entering into the deal, it will be funding both sides of this conflict, and I think the Israelis know it. They have said as much to the United States, and I think that has fallen on deaf ears. I think that may contribute to some extent why the United States has been more silent as Israel has been operating with impunity over the last day or so as they’ve gotten the upper hand in this conflict,” Schanzer added.

The lobbyist suggested that his “sense right now out of Washington is that we will see silence for probably at least another few days allowing the Israelis to neutralize Hamas further, weaken them further, so that we don’t have another conflict like this in another few years. Because invariably, these conflicts continue to erupt.”

The Biden administration expressed support for Israel and its “right to defend itself” against Hamas rocket attacks, with the US president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding telephone talks on Friday to discuss the conflict.

A CNBC report said on May 17 2021 (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/17/iran-nuclear-deal-could-weaken-us-efforts-to-end-israel-gaza-violence.html):

The U.S. plans to revive the Iran nuclear deal, and that could undercut efforts to end the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, one analyst told CNBC on Monday.

Joe Biden has shown little signs he would publicly ramp up pressure on Israel to agree to an immediate ceasefire — and that could partly be because he wants to revive the Iranian nuclear deal, suggested Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Schanzer told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” that Washington’s silence may have something to do with the Iran nuclear deal — formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — which was abandoned by the previous administration in 2018.

Returning to the deal would result in Iran receiving billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for limiting its nuclear program. Tehran could use that money to fund the militants since “Iran is Hamas’ top sponsor,” explained Schanzer.

He added that the U.S. would inadvertently find itself indirectly supporting both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“That, by the way, may contribute to some extent (to) why the U.S. has been a little more silent as Israel has been operating with impunity over the last day or so,” he added, saying that Israel has “got the upper hand in this conflict.”

The U.S. may remain silent for a few more days, which would allow Israel to weaken the Hamas militant group further, he said.

Ryan Bohl, a Middle East and North African analyst at risk consultancy Stratfor, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” that the U.S. is the only country in the world that could change Israeli behavior, and there are “emerging signs” that Washington wants a ceasefire. He agreed that Israel is in the driver’s seat of the conflict.

Israel is in ‘driver’s seat’ of ongoing conflict with Hamas, says analyst

The Israel-Hamas conflict has not “seriously impacted” nuclear deal negotiations with Iran, analysts from risk consultancy Eurasia Group said in a note over the weekend.

Before the latest clashes, negotiations to revive the nuclear deal were already mired in “the complexities of sanctions relief and nuclear constraints,” the analysts said.


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